UX guru Paul Boag: Why brands need to take notice of experience design

We just launched our first preview release of Experience Design CC, an end-to-end solution for the UX design community that brings together all the tools they need into a single product.

But why should brands be taking notice of experience design? We caught up with User Experience guru Paul Boag to get his thoughts…

Adobe: Why do you think brands have invested more heavily in user experience in recent years?

Paul: Organisations are investing in user experience because it is the next logical step for differentiation. Step one is innovation. The emphasis here is simply to get a new product into the marketplace. Something that people have never had before. Following that it becomes about features. Who has the best feature set? But once a product has matured and a standard feature set emerged, this is no longer enough to differentiate. At this point user experience is the best source of competitive advantage. The better the experience the more loyal the customer. The more loyal the customer, the more customer retention and recommendation. That lowers the cost of sales.

Adobe: What’s the first thing brands should do when thinking about getting user experience design right? What would give them an edge over the competition?

Paul: The first thing to think about is the user. Companies need to take time to do extensive user research. I’m not just talking about your typical marketing research. I’m talking about understanding the problems users face and the journey they go on. As part of this process I recommend doing some in-field studies and mapping the customer journey. Only once you understand the journey a user goes on can you start to improve that experience. Too many organisations rely on guesswork and that can lead to some dangerous assumptions.

User Experience guru Paul Boag

Adobe: What’s a great example of experience design that you’ve seen recently?

Paul: The Disney Magicband is the best user experience around at the moment. It allows Disney to provide a frictionless experience for people attending one of their parks. With a simple radio transmitter built into the band, customers can pay for everything without the use of a card. It will even unlock their hotel room and guide them to the rides with the shortest wait time. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. The band allows Disney characters to seek out children with birthdays and wish them a happy birthday by name. It also allows restaurant staff to welcome people by name and to have their food ready by the time they arrive at the restaurant. That one simple band has transformed the entire Disney experience for the better.

The Disney MagicBand

Adobe: What’s the one thing you notice brands getting wrong time and time again when it comes to designing a great user experience for their customers? How can they put this right?

Paul: The biggest mistake companies are making is to try and bolt user experience onto the side of existing business models. Creating an outstanding user experience will impact every part of the company. The legal department can have just as big an impact on the experience of users as a designer working on the website. Take for example the Disney Magicband. The band itself may be simple. But to make that experience work involved changing components across the entire company. Everything had to change from hotel door locks to the companies training programme. Creating an outstanding user experience is about a lot more than pushing a few pixels around the screen.

Adobe: How important is mobile in user experience design?

Paul: Of course mobile is important to the user experience. It is a key way that people interact with organisations. But it is important that we don’t get this out of proportion. Mobile interactions are just one part of a much broader experience. An experience that is not limited to screens. An experience that is shaped as much by company culture and structures, as the interfaces that a user will interact with.

Adobe: How important is collaboration when it comes to creating a great user experience?

Paul: It is impossible to create a great user experience alone. The idea of a “user experience designer” is a fallacy. It implies that a single designer can make the kind of changes necessary. In truth, collaboration across disciplines and business silos is fundamental to shaping experience. Every level of an organisation from the CEO to the guy who cleans the toilets has to be engaged in the process.

Discover how to create a workflow that takes your UX ideas from concept to an executable UX Roadmap in our Boost User Experience Masterclass on 14 April.

Test drive the Adobe XD preview for Mac here and tell us what you think.

About Paul

Paul Boag is Digital Consultant, Trainer, Speaker, Writer, Mentor and User Experience specialist. He helps not-for-profit companies such as the European Commission, UCAS and Doctors Without Borders to adapt to the digital world by refocusing them on user experience and engaging with a new digitally savvy audience.

Follow Paul on Twitter: @boagworld